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Now Irish want a scrum coach

By Niall Crozier

Too little, too late... the Irish Rugby Football Union is now inviting applications from coaches to oversee its High Performance Scrum Programme.

Having witnessed the embarrassment of Twickenham last Saturday, it’s certainly tempting to wonder why such an ad wasn’t placed a lot earlier.

The Irish scrum was humiliated in the course of being taught a very painful lesson by England, especially after Mike Ross went off injured.

The immediate reaction of most Ireland supporters to Tuesday’s ad was to start arranging the nouns ‘horse’ and ‘stable-door’, the verbs ‘to bolt’ and ‘to shut’ and the preposition ‘after’ into a non-too-complimentary sentence.

Visions of a sleek stallion careering out of Twickenham and along the A316 towards the West End sprang to mind without too much imagination being required.

“Why wasn’t this done sooner?” angry supporters demanded to know.

Although Saturday’s shambles may have suggested to the contrary, Ireland currently do have someone responsible for the scrum side of things.

The problem is that Greg Feek, who won 10 caps as an All Blacks prop and played for the Canterbury Crusaders in the Super 14 on 63 occasions has been working more or less on his own and, clearly, this aspect of Ireland’s play needs someone to take a fresh look at it.

Nine penalties were conceded during the set-piece in a 30-9 rout at Twickenham that ruthlessly exposed the lack of depth at tighthead.

By the time the Guinness Series came around in November, he was already working with the Irish team.

But now the IRFU view is that the art of scrummaging has been neglected down the ranks, leading to a dearth of props in general and tight-heads in particular.

Ross’s injury on Saturday night saw Ulster’s Tom Court asked to pack down at three, highlighting the woeful paucity of cover in that area.

Court plays on the loose-head side of the Ulster scrum — a totally different role.

England took full advantage and, it has to be said, the result was grievous to watch.

The new coach is not a replacement for Feek; instead his role will be to complement the Kiwi’s work.

He will be responsible for the implementation and management of a High Performance Scrum Programme in the four provinces and to the national and provincial age-grade representative team structures. Those are clear goals — and good ones.

The job is available to anyone able to provide proof of the necessary knowledge and ability.

It need not go to someone from the southern hemisphere, though it probably will.

But in the recent past Ireland has bred props of the calibre of Lions John Hayes and Paul Wallace.

If not candidates for the job on offer, then they and the likes of Justin Fitzpatrick ought to be brought on board to assist in improving representative and club scrums, with the emphasis on tight-head play.

Then perhaps Ireland can move towards guaranteeing there is no repetition of the nightmare of Twickenham.

That will not happen overnight, but hopefully it will at some point in the not too distant future.

The alternative is more dreadful days like March 17, 2010. And nobody who supports the Ireland rugby team wants to see that.

Belfast Telegraph

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